The Carter G. Woodson Book Awards

Social Education, May-June 2005 | Go to article overview

The Carter G. Woodson Book Awards


National Council for the Social Studies has sponsored the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for more than 30 years. The idea evolved out of the Committee on Racism and Social Justice in 1973 and has since grown into a nationally recognized children's nonfiction book award, prized by many authors and publishers.

The award was created and named to honor Carter G. Woodson, the distinguished African American writer, scholar, and educator. Woodson, often regarded as the "father of Negro history," was the second African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University. In 1926, he created "Negro History Week," which was held during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This celebration later developed into African American History Month.

With the Carter G. Woodson Award, NCSS recognizes the outstanding efforts of authors and publishers to provide quality social studies books for children that focus on all areas of diversity in the United States. Books are chosen for their sensitivity, accuracy, and quality in dealing with many issues in U.S. history.

This year's choices were announced at the awards ceremony in Baltimore at the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. The books selected mirror the diversity of the population of the United States and reflect an ever-growing area of children's books. The authors who received the award or honor distinction in the 2004 competition are listed below, along with brief reviews of the works.

2004 Carter G. Woodson Award Book: Elementary Level Sacagawea, by Use Erdrich, illustrated by Julie Buffalohead. Minneapolis, Minn.: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

Reviewed by Barbara Stanley, assistant professor, Department of Middle Grades and Secondary Education at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia.

Lise Erdrich's Sacagawea offers a vibrantly illustrated, detailed narrative about a woman who had a significant impact on the exploration of the American West. The story begins when Hidatsa warriors capture a young Sacagawea from her Shoshone tribe.

The Hidatsa people gave her the name Sacagawea, meaning, "bird woman" They taught her the ways of cultivation, as practiced by their permanent settlements; the Shoshone, on the other hand, were gatherers. When she was 16, her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, was contracted to guide members of the Corps of Discovery, led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark. Sacagawea and her infant Pomp traveled with the party.

Sacagawea's skills and resourcefulness helped the group through many challenging times. As she carried her two-month-old son, she gathered plants to keep the crew healthy, saved the captain's valuable expedition supplies after a river mishap, was familiar with trails through the mountains, and translated for Clark with the Shoshone to obtain horses for travel through the Rockies. The book portrays Sacagawea as a heroine, depicting her success as a result of her own efforts and cleverness, and not as a woman dependant upon the men she accompanied.

Julie Buffalohead's illustrations and Erdrich's attention to historical details makes this an ideal picture book for both the elementary and middle grades. The author offers interesting contrasts of various Native American tribes. An afterword, a timeline, and detailed map are included to detail what is known about Sacagawea after Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis in 1806.

2004 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book: Elementary Level Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. New York: Harcourt Inc.

Reviewed by Dena G. Beeghly, West Chester University, Pennsylvania.

As a boy, Cesar Chavez worked alongside his family harvesting crops for pennies a day, As a man, he helped grow a reform movement that would change the way migrant workers lived and worked. …

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